E85 Ethanol is made from Domestic crops
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Methanol M85

Methanol - M85

Methanol (methyl alcohol) is also known as wood alcohol and like E85, M85 is a blend of 85 percent methanol and 15 percent gasoline. Methanol is produced through a steam and catalyst process that reconstitutes methane gas as methanol. Currently, virtually all methanols produced in the States uses methane derived from natural gas. However, methane also can be obtained from coal and from biogas; biogas is generated from fermenting organic matter, including byproducts of sewage and manure.

Methanol reformer, methanol plant, methanol process

PROS: Methanol is similar to Ethanol as it is a potent fuel with an octane rating of 100 that allows for higher compression and greater efficiency than gasoline. Both types of fuel are not volatile enough to start a cold engine easily, but when Methanol burns, it does so with a dangerous, invisible flame. Blending gasoline with methanol to create M85 solves both problems.

CONS: Methanol is also extremely corrosive, and requires special materials for storage and delivery. Addition, Methanol has only 51 percent of the BTU content of gasoline by volume, which means its miles per gallon ratio is worse than Ethanol. As with ethanol, any potential increase in efficiency from methanol's high octane is negated by the need for FFV's to remain driveable on 100 percent gasoline. The lower energy content and the higher cost ratio in building methanol refineries compared to ethanol distilleries have relegated Methanol and M85 to the back seat. Moreover, producing methanol from natural gas results in a net increase of CO2, hastening global warming. Unlike ethanol production, the creating methanol liberates buried carbon that otherwise wouldn't reach the atmosphere.

Outlook: The EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is tasked with reducing methane emissions from landfills, and much of this methane is used to produce energy. As of December 2004, there were more than 325 operational landfill gas energy projects in the States and more than 600 landfills deemed to be good candidates for future projects, but the recovery ratio is not significant. Methane also can be produced by processing biomass such as grass clippings, sawdust and other cellulosic sources.

Based on these important differences between ethanol and methanol, not to mention the power of the farm lobby, methanol has receded into ethanol's shadow as a gasoline replacement. The last M85 FFV in the States was sold in 1999. However, methanol may still have a future as a fuel. Nearly every major electronics manufacturer plans to release portable electronics powered by methanol fuel cells within the next two years.

Methanol (CH3OH) is an alcohol fuel such as used in Top Fuel Dragsters. High performance race car engines are also being fueled by E100 such as the IndyCar race series. Today most of the world's methanol is produced by a process using natural gas as a feedstock. However, the ability to produce methanol from non-petroleum feedstocks such as coal or biomass is of interest for reducing petroleum imports.

 Ethanol at Indy 500
 Ethanol Octane
 Methanol as an Alternative Fuel
 Electric Cars
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